A Call For Community: Scientific Language Learning is Still Language Learning


Two years ago now I started learning French on Duolingo. I got pretty good.

I listened to French Podcasts, and could read long texts. But I’d never had a full conversation in French, when I went to France.

*Cut to keltan standing outside of a Parisian Pizza Place it is 12Am at night. He is practicing what he will say when he walks in to order a pizza. keltan decides to just do it and walks confidently into the store (Setting)

keltan: (Imitated French Accent) “Bonjour! Un Pizza Margarita S’il Vous Plait”

Shop Worker: (Real French Accent, and laughing) “Hi there, how are you going?”

keltan (Australian Accent) “Fuck! Was it that obvious?”

Fin De Cinema

I later realised, Yes, it was “that obvious” because what I’d actually said when I walked into that pizza place at midnight was “Good Morning Person of Respect! A male margarita pizza if you don’t mind”

It was so obvious.


I’ve slowly been having the realization that while I consider myself adapt in scientific thinking and culture, I struggle in scientific conversation.

I have spent my life consuming scientific content and have a much better understanding than the average bear. When I am talking to people not absorbed by science I am a great explainer of concepts. But I predict that if I had to have a professional discussion or debate, I would fumble badly.

Put another way, I know all the words, but I can’t string them together coherently while following the flow of a conversation. Because I’ve never had to practice.

WTF Do I Do Now?

Well, TSUYOKU NARITAI. It’s time to start talking to more scientific/​rationalist minded people. This is hard where I live and in my profession. I am also a bit awkward walking up to people at a party and saying things like “Hey there, I overheard you discussing fungal growth patters. Can I buy you a drink?”

So, online conversation, or starting some sort of rationalist group in the smallish town I’m in seems to be my two options.

Option 2: This feels to me like I’ll attract some crackpots. I also struggle just keeping up with social commitments in general. I am not a good type of person to start a group like this. It doesn’t seem overly viable. But may be something that I try in the future anyway.

Option 1: For this I am asking for your help. I am specifically looking for a way to have Science/​rationality conversations over voice or video. I’m sure there are some LessWrong discords out there? This is a weird one, but maybe a MineCraft server or gaming group? Even if the focus isn’t Sci/​Rat, being around these types of people, I’m sure conversations will naturally arise.

Any and all recommendations are welcome!

And if this post pointed to something that you have now noticed in yourself. I hope to see you in these places described.

What I Found When Looking Around

Where do LessWrong rationalists debate?

Announcing the DWATV Discord

LessWrong Discord

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